I received an education last week when I went to visit the Health Federation of Philadelphia’s Early Head Start Program at 4606 Frankford Avenue. I was there to speak with the staff and learn about their unique program. I was very impressed with the staff persons I met this day. Most, but not all of the staff are pictured. I was welcomed, made to feel right at home and you can tell the staff has great respect for their families and they love their work!
Health Federation of Philadelphia, founded almost 30 years ago, brought together the community health centers and the city’s Department of Public Health to focus on providing health access for those most in need. They have since branched out to provide “direct service programs” and Early Head Start is one of them. There are two centers in the city – one at 1228 N. Franklin St. and the other on Frankford Avenue, just north of Orthodox Street. Health Federation of Philadelphia Early Head Start Program is funded totally by Federal monies explained EHS Director, Khadijah Muhammad. We know this is an important point as we get ready to vote in the fall elections. Your vote does make a difference and can affect services provided for all of us. Meeting the staff, seeing the site and hearing about this program firsthand, impressed me with the support for families and children that it provides.
The Frankford location opened in March 2011 and serves almost 50 families in zip codes 19124, 19120 and 19122. To be eligible, you must be a pregnant woman younger than 30 (yes, they have a PreNatal program, too) or a Mom and/or Dad with children under the age of 3. This program is all about you – your needs and your goals for you and your family.
The dedicated staff I met has a mission to support you as your child’s first and most important teacher. Services are offered in your home and at the site helping your child learn readiness skills for school. You are an active partner and decide what you and your family need most – maybe it’s social services, health and nutrition counseling, medical and/or dental exams, or additional education for you to provide for your family. Staff work very closely with you to help you succeed and meet your goals. According to Sherry Blount, her greatest reward is empowering parents to set goals for themselves, and then, seeing them achieve them. Staff and families develop a closeness and a rapport that helps not just the youngest family members but everyone.
Once a family enrolls, a developmental screening is used to assess the child’s current developmental level. Child Family Advocates, e.g., Sherrie, Tinesha or Atiyah, visit the homes of their families weekly with individual lesson plans tailored to each child needs, to model an activity that parents can continue through the week to do with their child as part of their daily routine. All activities are age appropriate for the child. Parents complete a survey at the end of the visit which gives them another chance to use “their voice” to be heard about the activities and what works best for them. Twice a month, parents and their children have a group socialization meeting at the site or at the Frankford Library. Parents can connect with other parents and the children can play with other children. This develops support that parents need during these important first years of their child’s life.
Kheila, a parent who participated in the Early Head Start Program, found that what attracted her was that this program focused on the “parent perspective” and that her needs were addressed. She is now working for the program as a Program Assistant. Kheila also felt that she gained confidence and a greater sense of her own skills and potential. A Parent Committee helps to plan workshops and events on topics parents identify as being helpful to them. “Dad’s Night Out” recently celebrated father’s involvement in the lives of their children. Field trips are planned. Each summer, Bridging the Gap interns from local universities, who are studying to become social service and healthcare professionals, assist in the program. A Health Fair is in the works as a future event.
Health Federation of Philadelphia’s Early Head Start Program is a well-rounded, well-thought out program that provides many comprehensive services to young children and their families. If you are eligible, if you know a family that is eligible, contact Judy Snow at 215.223.5200, xtn. 120 for more information and to enroll. It gives you and yours a “Head Start” towards the future!